- Diet: Drink plenty of milk and lactose products, which contain calcium. Eat sardines, salmon, and mackerel, which are rich in calcium as well as vitamin D. Limit caffeine, since it causes the body to excrete calcium faster. Ask your doctor about eating soy, which supplies a good amount of calcium as well as plant estrogen to maintain bone density.
- Supplements: Ask your doctor about calcium supplements that contain vitamin D and vitamin K. Depending on your age and risk factors, daily dosage can be 1,000 to 1,500 mg.
- Exercise: Regular weight-bearing exercise helps stop bone loss and builds strong bones. Try walking, running, weight lifting, tennis, and volleyball. Exercise that keeps weight on your bones or forces you to jump up and down are best.
- Exams: Ask your doctor to measure your height every year—a loss of one or two inches is an early sign of osteoporosis—and test your bones regularly. Talk to your doctor about any existing conditions, such as kidney disorders and cancers, that can threaten your bone density.
- Lifestyle: Quit smoking—smokers have up to 10 percent lower bone density than non-smokers, and avoid excessive alcohol—which prevents your body from absorbing calcium properly.
— National Osteoporosis Foundation and National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal and Skin Diseases
Check Your Medicare Benefits
Medicare may cover the cost of bone density exams every two years for certain patients, including women with estrogen deficiency and individuals with vertebral abnormalities or those receiving long-term steroid treatment.
For more information on Medicare-covered bone scans, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a downloadable brochure, “Bone Mass Measurements.”
Save Yourself a Trip
Every day, everywhere, many things can trip us up. Annually, nearly one in three Americans over age 65 falls. This can result in head and brain injuries and bone fractures, and for adults 65-plus falls are the number one cause of injury deaths, nonfatal injuries, and hospital admissions for trauma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among Latinos 50-plus, nearly half of women and nearly one fifth of men suffer from low bone mass, which means bones are more likely to break with a fall. "Exercise is the best thing, preventing you from falling by keeping you strong, flexible, and able to balance. Walk, dance, play with your grandkids—it's all exercise!" says AARP President Jennie Chin Hansen.—Fresia Rodríguez Cadavid
The CDC also recommends these steps to prevent a fall:
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to evaluate your prescription and over-the-counter medications to lower side effects and interactions that may lead to imbalance or dizziness.
- Have your eyes and hearing checked once a year.
- Reduce dangers in your home that can cause falls. This includes keeping floors free of clutter, improving lighting, and using a rubber bathmat.
- Have an occupational therapist inspect your home and recommend ways to eliminate environmental hazards and unsafe behaviors.
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